COMPUTER giant IBM has pledged to go flat-out in a bid to recapture the number one spot in the personal computer sector of the booming Chinese information technology market. Big Blue's statement of intent came at the opening of the company's latest branch office in Guangzhou last week. IBM China/Hongkong managing director Bob Savage said staff would adopt a more aggressive approach in the Chinese marketplace. After acknowledging the company had not done as well as its competitors in the personal business systems market, Mr Savage sounded a warning. ''You can take it that the establishment of this office in Guangzhou means we intend to be a much more aggressive player in the PC market here in southern China, and all of China,'' he said. ''In some segments of the market, we are not the leader but, across the whole spectrum, we are number one - and I expect us to stay there. ''The PC market is a very substantial part of the Chinese information technology market and this year we are doing significantly better in that marketplace than we have done in the past two or three years.'' But one company executive admitted IBM had got it wrong in the late 1980s by entering the Chinese PC market with an ''incompatible'' product. ''The mainframe and bulk AS/400 were not the kind of product for the Chinese marketplace,'' he said. ''But with the introduction of the PS/1 and PS/ValuePoint that problem has been ironed out.'' He said IBM's PC business received a major boost last week, when a leading Shanghai-based financial institution bought 1,100 PS/1s. Timothy Cheung, manager of the new Guangzhou office, described its strategy as ''simple and aggressive''. ''We will listen to our customers' needs and do our best to provide them with solutions,'' he said. IBM will draft Hongkong-based staff into the new office to boost customer service in the provinces it serves: Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan, Fujian and Hainan. ''Not only are we going to hire and train local workers, we will also combine with the added resources of IBM in Hongkong to provide better supporting services to our customers,'' said Mr Cheung. Asked about the company's troubled PC manufacturing joint venture with the Tianjin Zhonghuan Computer Co, Mr Savage claimed it was still central to IBM's plans. Set up in 1990, the joint venture was expected to grow to a capacity of 30,000 systems in three years, but according to official figures only produces 2,000 units a year. ''We are still working with our partners in Tianjin about the long-term mission of that joint venture,'' Mr Savage said. ''We are building machines in Tianjin at present for export and we are developing some other products which will be built at that particular company - unique products for the Chinese marketplace. ''The short-term future of the venture is certainly secure and we would expect that we would have a relationship and work with that organisation in the long term as well.'' The Tianjin operation is developing an exclusively Chinese solution for the workstations of tellers in banks: ''It's a combination of IBM product and non-IBM product integrated into a workstation, specifically for the cashier in the bank,'' said Mr Savage. He declined to give the exact number of systems being produced at Tianjin. The Guangzhou branch is IBM's third in China since the company was granted wholly owned foreign enterprise status by the Chinese Government last year. Big Blue also has offices in Beijing and Shanghai. But the Guangzhou office has been set up with minimum capital investment. Even with an on-site customer spare parts depot, the investment required to open the branch struggled to top US$1 million (HK$7.8 million). ''Our biggest investment is in the commitment we make to the people we hire,'' said Mr Savage. ''So far we've hired 10, offered jobs to another 10 and we hope by the end of the year to have around 30 staff here, all Chinese nationals.'' Last year IBM installed more than 50 systems in Guangdong alone, generating revenue in excess of US$20 million. Mr Cheung said: ''I would expect to at least maintain the same level of performance as last year and aim to reach a revenue of US$30 million in the first year of operation''.